To achieve a quality finish it is worth taking the time to prepare the areas to be tiled. Careful marking out will ensure that the fixed tiles will be properly centred and any cut tiles are of a comfortable size. Preparation will also help gauge where borders and features are best placed before it is too late for adjustments.
All areas to be tiled must be clean, flat, mature, dry and free from dust and any residues that may cause poor adhesion. Any irregularities in the surface prior to tiling may affect the quality of the tiled finish. To assist with the preparation work there are articles to follow that explain how different areas should be treated prior to tiling. Natural stone and Terracotta tiles may contain residual moisture from manufacture which will cause the tiles to appear darker than anticipated. Damp tiles should be unpacked and allowed to dry thoroughly before fixing. Should this not be possible they can be fixed but it will result in an extended drying time. Some tile edges may have small chips or flaws which should be reserved for cuts. Glass and Agglomerate tiles react to temperature more than other tile products. For this reason these tiles should be stored in the room in which they are to be fitted to allow them to settle. Glass tiles should be left for 24 hours and Agglomerate tiles will need 48 hours. Agglomerate tiles must also be stacked flat and not on their edges.
Always inspect the tiles prior to fixing, making sure that tiles are shuffled to ensure any colour and shade variations are well mixed. It is strongly advised to check that there are enough tiles to complete the work before fixing as it is not possible to match tiles from different batches. For the same reason it would be prudent to keep a few extra tiles should any need to be replaced in the future. Always handle tiles carefully as many are relatively fragile prior to installation.
In order to plan the tile layout successfully you will need two straight wooden bars. To find a level starting point mark the wall with a horizontal line at the height of one tile and grout joint from the floor or skirting board.
Make a ruler with the longest wooden bar by marking out the tile and grout widths along its length. Measure the width of the wall to find the centre and mark the tile and grout widths along the line from the centre point. When measuring it is important to take into account any vertical feature lines that may have a different width to the main tiles.
Starting from the last whole tile marked on the horizontal line; draw a line vertically using a plumb line as a guide. Using the ruler, mark the tile spacing vertically to determine where the last whole tile will finish. It is important to make allowances for any horizontal border tiles or mosaics that are to be incorporated into the design. If the remaining space at the top of the wall is uncomfortably small, adjust the height of the horizontal start line. The finished tiling will look better with a more generous cut at both the top and bottom of the wall, rather than a row of tiny cuts at one end.
Once any adjustments of the marking out are complete, two wooden battens can be attached to the wall. One batten should be fixed with the top edge following the horizontal base line. The second batten should be fixed at 90° to the first following the vertical line. The two battens give a stable starting point to begin the wall tiling. It is important to note that where a wall has been waterproofed, battens cannot be mechanically fixed to the wall. The starting point must be made with marked lines only as any screws or nails will puncture the waterproof preparation which may result in a leak. The horizontal batten may be moved along the wall to continue as a guide, once any newly applied tiles are supported by the adhesive. Once the whole tiles have been fixed the cuts can be measured and fitted.